DSEI protests
Demonstrators protesting against the DSEI fair stopped an armoured vehicle from entering the ExCel centreCAAT

One activist was arrested as protesters caused "absolute chaos" during the first day of a week of demonstrations against one of biggest arms fairs in the world, due to take place in East London. A coalition of different campaign groups staged what was the first day of a planned "week of action" against the Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI), a weapons fair which take place every two years at the ExCel centre in the London docklands.

The event is expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors during its run between 15 – 18 September, with with more 1500 companies from around 50 countries showcasing the "biggest and best kit on offer in the defence sector".

Prior to the event, a group of protesters began a week of action against the staging of DSEI with demonstrators holding different activities every day. During the first day of protests, activists unveiled banners reading "Stop Arming Israel" and "Palestinians remember and resist" near the entrance to the ExCel building.

The demonstrators also managed to block an armoured car, which was making its way into the centre for the arms fair for over an hour before being dispersed by police, with some chaining themselves to the vehicle.

Kat Hobbs, spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), told IBTimes UK: "We started a week of action today with a Stop Arming Israel in solidarity with Palestine and to call for an end to the two-way trade in arms between the UK and Israel.

"In a wonderful piece of timing, halfway through the day a big armoured car arrived to be delivered to DSEI. The activists were excellent in their very quick response and grabbed a banner to go sit in front of the vehicle and blocking it on the road, one person got some chains and locked themselves onto the back of it and people climbed on the vehicle with banners and flags so that vehicle was stopped for a really long time.

"We've already heard from someone from inside who just works in the conference centre who came out and had a bit of a chat with some of the protesters to say 'you're causing absolute chaos, everyone is running around inside in turmoil'.

"A lot of the idea behind the week of action is that will happen every day to say it is not legitimate to set up one of the world's biggest arms fairs in the east of [of London]. I live in the east end and we don't want this on our doorsteps."

DSEI exhibition
A man looks at weapons on display during the DSEI exhibition at the ExCel CentreGetty

The protesters are planning to keep returning to the site for the next five days before staging one final protest on Monday 14 September, the day before the DSEI event official begins.

A spokesperson for DSEI said the protests so far have not had any "significant" disruptions. A spokesperson added: "DSEI is all set to be the biggest edition yet, with over 1500 companies exhibiting from more than 50 countries and 42 international pavilions. Overall there are 969 exhibitors from Europe, 598 from the UK, with many innovative SMEs showcasing the latest defence and security equipment."

IBTimes UK is awaiting details about the arrest from Metropolitan Police.